Fifteen years ago, while serving as senior pastor at the Place of the Outpouring, a Baptist congregation in Memphis, Tennessee, Eugene Gibson Jr. preached at a youth revival. One of those in attendance was Valerie Bridgeman, at the time a faculty member at Memphis Theological Seminary. Gibson remembers their conversation after the service well.
“She said, ‘You need to be teaching that,’” he recalled. “Two weeks later, the dean from Memphis Theological asked me to come do a class, and the rest is history.”
Gibson served as an adjunct seminary professor in Memphis until 2020, when he moved north to become senior pastor of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in Columbus. His leadership of one of the city’s best-known churches led to a renewal of his friendship with Bridgeman, who became MTSO’s dean in 2017. In mid-2023, Gibson invited Bridgeman to preach at Mt. Olivet.
“She preaches and does a wonderful job,” he recalled. “The next day, she texts me early in the morning. ‘Can you call me?’ I call her. She says, ‘I might have a teaching position for you.’ I said, ‘Get outta here!’”
“I love preaching, but I love teaching more,” Gibson said. “I like the light bulb to go off. I like somebody to encounter the Bible.”
In August, Gibson began his appointment as assistant professor of homiletics at MTSO. A Ph.D. candidate at Christian Theological Seminary, he was inducted into the Marin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers at Morehouse College in 2012.
Gibson and his wife, Shakitha Boone Gibson, share four children: Trinity, Taylor, Jaden and Kyndall.
“We’re excited to offer our students the opportunity to study under an active and accomplished preacher,” said MTSO President Jay Rundell. “Pastor Gibson’s love for his vocation and enthusiasm for the homiletic craft are infectious.”
Though his father and namesake was a preacher, Gibson’s first leadership role in the church was away from the pulpit. He served as a minister of music for 11 years, directing a 100-voice youth choir called Joyful Noise. But in his mid-20s, “I sensed a call to ministry.”
“You know, people have call stories, especially in the African-American community, where they ran from God and all that,” he said. “I didn’t. When I felt that I was called, I told my dad the next day.”
Gibson served under the renowned preacher Frank Thomas, who led MTSO’s Schooler Institute on Preaching in 2019, at churches in Chicago and Memphis. Thomas, whom Gibson still considers “my pastor and mentor,” wrote a book titled How to Preach a Dangerous Sermon.
While Gibson doesn’t aspire “be a provocateur for provocation’s sake,” he doesn’t avoid the homiletic danger zone. Fraught personal and public events are among the things he looks forward to addressing with students in his Spring 2024 course Preaching and Worship for Special Occasions: “How do you do a funeral sermon? How do you do a national tragedy sermon? How do you do a political sermon?”
In his Fall 2023 Introduction to Homiletics class, Gibson has exposed his students to the history of preaching, “so that you realize that you’re not the first person to ever utter a gospel.” And he has stressed the development of a system for writing sermons, “whether you have a week or two days to prepare.” In fact, he encourages new and aspiring preachers to write or at least outline a sermon every week, even if they aren’t planning to preach.
“I want people to love it,” he said. “I want them to be excited about practicing and getting better. You can’t tell me you love it if you don’t do it. You can’t tell me you love it if you won’t study it.”
Methodist Theological School in Ohio provides theological education and leadership in pursuit of a just, sustainable and generative world. In addition to the Master of Divinity degree, the school offers master’s degrees in public theology, social justice and theological studies, along with a Doctor of Ministry degree.
Danny Russell, communications director